Apart from notable exceptions, such as 54gene, many would agree that biobanking in Africa is underdeveloped, especially beyond countries such as Nigeria and South Africa. Human Heredity and Health in Africa (H3Africa) was established by The United States National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wellcome Trust in order to meet this challenge. They fund African researchers and help provide bioinformatics core and biorepositories located in Nigeria, South Africa, as well as Uganda.
Members of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria H3Africa Biorepository (I-HAB) observed that international standards of biobanking may not be applied universally in Africa. To bridge this gap I-HAB established a training and mentorship programme ensuring that researchers obtained the highest quality biospecimens for research. A recent article headed by Alash’le Abimiku of Institute of Human Virology, Nigeria, was published in the African Journal of Laboratory Medicine reporting on engagement with two H3Africa projects.
The research projects in question were located in Nigeria, and Ghana. I-HAB deployed a four-pronged approach of needs assessment, training & mentorship, piloting, and continuous
quality improvement of biobanking for future research. A series of international quality standard operating procedures (SOPs) were developed by a working group of NIH experts and representatives from each H3Africa biorepository. Training and mentorship was also addressed.
Both projects followed a similar plan that consisted of:
- Needs assessment
- Training and mentorship
- Pilot projects
- Atain MTA
- Train on protocol specific procedures
- Execute dry run
- Pilot exercise:
- Sample collection, sample
- processing, transport to I-HAB,
- temporary storage,
- 1st shipment to Accra and
- Continuous quality improvement
“The key to effective training is to establish a foundation of harmonised guidelines, procedures, and minimal requirements that align with project goals and best practices. The biorepository should utilise standard and customised training that encompasses theory, practical exercises, and post-tests. Training achieved staff competency and eliminated issues revealed by needs assessments, pilot exercises, and continuous monitoring. Both projects improved in performance following training; however, biological shipping may require refresher training or additional practical exercises,” posited the authors.
“Partnerships between competent regional biorepositories and research investigators may build human capacity and improve biobanking practices and biospecimen quality by adopting an approach of needs assessment, training and mentorship, pilot, and continuous quality improvement,” concluded the authors.